UN chief seeks more money to ease famine

AP News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2011 12:38 PM
UN chief seeks more money to ease famine

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states Saturday to donate more money to save lives in famine-ravaged East Africa, saying another $700 million is needed for U.N. programs in the region through year's end. The World Bank announced from Washington it would boost its aid to area countries to nearly $1.9 billion.

"National solidarity and international assistance has saved many lives," Ban told the gathering on the humanitarian response in East Africa. "But we cannot afford to lose the momentum."

The U.N. chief also called for greater access in the region for humanitarian workers, saying that more lives could be saved if aid agencies could enter regions controlled by the Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab.

"It is no coincidence that these are the districts where the crisis is most acute," Ban said at the meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. "Somalia will never be free of the threat of famine until it has peace and stability."

The World Bank announced from Washington on Saturday that it is increasing its aid to countries in the area to $1.88 billion through 2014. That figure includes $500 million already allocated to the region.

The World Bank's president, Robert Zoellick, said the increase in aid is designed to ease the current crisis while building resilience for the future. He said a humanitarian crisis need not, and should not, become a perpetual crisis.

The U.N. says more than 13 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somali refugee camps and Uganda are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, and that 750,000 people are in danger of dying over the next few months. The U.N. estimates tens of thousands have died in these countries already.

At the U.N. earlier Saturday, Kenyan Prime Minister Ralia Odinga became the first head of state to sign a charter devised by non-governmental organizations saying he'd work to stop extreme hunger in the region.

The organizations, including Oxfam, ONE, Save the Children, and World Vision, are calling on all countries in the region to ensure famine never occurs again by repairing an international emergency warning system and supporting local food production.